Ashcroft has been in the news this past summer with the filming of a Hollywood production featuring Jennifer Lopez. But you should visit for other reasons, as the hills and mesas above town offer lots of hiking and biking opportunities. And then there's the dry desert valley bottoms featuring cactus, sage, and other dry plants and animals. Watch for rattlesnake.
Although I didn't have much time in town, all you have to do is ask. I did get the following from the grocery store manager, who is an avid dirt biker, "Head up to Maclean lake. Just before the lake is a field at about the 7 km mark up the first dirt road off Hwy 1 heading to Cache Creek (if leaving Ashcroft). At 3 km there is a cattle guard. The single track is a steep descent, followed by a flat ride back to the motocross track near the road". I wish we had time to visit. Dirt bikers ride up, but downhill bikers would want to shuttle up and ride down.
The kids in town also spoke of bike trails and jumps in the mesa above town, where they were shooting the film. Imagine that, "mesas" just 5 hours from Vancouver. Just above the highway to Merritt you'll find them, right near "Mesa View" street. Ashcroft itself is a pretty town. Indeed this area seems more like Arizona or West Texas, and one of the heritage home signs told of one original resident at the turn of the century who eventually moved to Texas. 5 hours from Vancouver but a world away!
For XC mountain bikers looking for big sky, that desert feeling and cardio workouts, simply pick a forest road and go. Close all gates behind you.
Another interesting adventure awaits flat-land mountain bikers taking the abandoned road through from Ashcroft to Spences Bridge along the East side of the river. This is First Nations land, so please to ask permission first.
There are quaint B&B's in each town at the end (or beginning of the ride). Wouldn't this 30 km desert ride make a cold beer taste that much better, and then soft sheets in the Spences Bridge 'Western' themed 'Garuda' Inn beautifully refinished and recently purchased from the previous Hare Krishna owners (but the original railway Hotel from days gone by)? Yes Spences Bridge and Ashcroft have lots of exploring to offer, winding FSR roads, waterfalls, desert, and, ponderosa highlands. Lots of history, too.
The area between Spences Bridge, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Kamloops is as desert-like as it gets in B.C., with sage, cactus, ponderosa, aspen, and big open sky, almost always blue! I was out to find cactus and I found lots! Enjoy this whole area, so close to Vancouver, and so different.
When hiking in the drier red sun-baked hills, always be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. They are usually in the sunny rocky areas. This trail entry is more of an appeal to those who frequent the area to write in or comment with your specific recommendations for Spences Bridge and Ashcroft. By the way, the Grocery store in town has the cleanest floors I've ever seen!
Spences Bridge and Ashcroft are both located off Hwy #1, the Trans Canada Hwy, which in parts seems more like Route #66 of America, partly waylaid when the bigger highway bypassed it (in this case, the Coquihalla). That’s all the more reason for you to go this way. You'll see old gas stations, retro-motels, but more importantly, you can go slower and explore the amazing terrain and history, being on the great "Gold Rush Trail" heading north into the Cariboo and Chilcotins. This whole area is fascinating. Lots of FSR campsites, B&Bs, by donation campsites, and back-roads to explore.
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